If you’re looking for a way to encourage your kids to read over the summer, one idea to consider is starting a summer book club. Getting the kids together with their friends to read or discuss what they’re reading turns reading from a solitary activity into a social activity and gives everyone a regularly occurring fun activity to look forward to. It will also give you a chance to help stimulate your child’s imagination and foster his love of reading.
- You’ll need a group of children and parents that are interested in participating and, most importantly, willing to commit to showing up for meetings and actually doing the reading. A book club is something that children from preschool on up can participate in, but because reading levels, materials, and activities will be very different indifferent age groups, you’ll want to make sure that the group you’re setting up includes children at roughly the same ages and ability levels; if you have a fifth grader, you don’t want to join a reading club full of kindergartners, for example.
- With smaller children, like preschoolers, kindergartners, and 1st graders, you’ll probably want to read to them or with them during the club meeting. A parent can read aloud while the pre-readers listen and look at the pictures. Children that can read can follow along with their own copy of the book, or they could be asked to read small passages out loud. When the book is finished, you can ask them to draw a picture related to the story; for example, ask them what they would do differently if they were a specific character in the book, and have them draw their answer.
- For second, third, and fourth graders, have them collectively choose a short book to read in between meetings, so they can come in ready to discuss it. As an activity, ask them to imagine, and write, an alternate ending to the story they read – this can be done individually, but can be even more fun if the entire group collaborates, or if groups of two or three work together to create alternate endings, then share them with the larger group.
- For fifth, sixth, and seventh graders, the direction of the group should be largely determined by the kids. Preteens are old enough to read longer books that could span several meetings, or choose a book series to work on throughout the summer. These kids are less likely to need pre-planned activities, but you can help by reading along and preparing some thoughtful discussion questions to get them talking and thinking about what they read. My experience with children this age is that they’re more than happy to give their opinions on things, and this a great venue for them to do just that.
Above all, it’s important for this to be fun. It should be as un-school-like as possible. Serve snacks and drinks, and schedule enough time at each meeting for the kids to socialize. The idea here isn’t to give the kids summer homework; it’s to show them that reading can be for pleasure, relaxation, and fun. That’s an important lesson, and one that will serve them well for a lifetime.